Day 5 of the European Poker Tour Malta Main Event saw the final 23 of an 895-player field return to battle down to the final six. Each of those players is guaranteed €153,700, but all of them have their eyes firmly fixed on the €810,400 and becoming the first-ever EPT Malta champion.
The man best positioned to capture the title is 34-year-old Valentin Messina, who leads the final table with 7.805 million. Messina, who is originally from France but now calls Malta home, first came to fame when he beat Freddy Deeb heads-up in the France Poker Tour in 2010 for €131,780. He wasn’t originally planning to compete in the Main Event but was talked in to it by other friends in Malta who had won their seats online.
He sold a percentage of himself and decided to buy in after all. Obviously it proved a wise decision. Messina, a former Supernova on PokerStars.fr, has been a Poker Coach Academy coach for several years. He now mainly plans online cash games and only plays tournaments on Sunday - that said, he won the Sunday Warm-up last October for €84K after cutting a deal heads up.
However, Messina faces some stiff competition in the form of 2014 PCA champ Dominik Panka, who celebrated his 24th birthday today; former pool champion Jean Montury; EPT100 Barcelona third-place finisher Hossein Ensan; Javier Gomez Zapatero, who has a chance to become the first-ever Spaniard to win an EPT; and German recreational player Stefan Schillhabel.
Day 5 kicked off with a bang as six players hit the rail in the first 30 minutes. Brazil's Bruno Volkman was the first to go in 23rd place, and Jacek Ladny and Dennis Kaj Smit followed him out the door in 22nd and 21st respectively. All three of them took home €27,200 for their efforts. After the pay jump to €31,500, Bjorn Lundgren (20th), Glib Kovtunov (19th), and Jorma Nuutinen (18th) joined them on the rail.
Nuutinen fell in Level 25 (15,000/30,000/4,000) when he opened with a raise from early position and then called when Antonin Duda three-bet to 130,000 from the cutoff. The flop saw Nuutinen check, Duda bet 155,000, and Nuutinen check-raise all in. Duda snap-called and when the cards were tabled it was no surprise why the chips went in.
Nuutinen had flopped a set, but it was no good as Duda flopped the nut straight. Nuutinen was looking to pair the board, but it wasn't meant to be as the blanked on the turn followed by the on the river.
From there, Rudolf Zintel (17th - €35,800), Koray Aldemir (16th - €35,800), Sergio Aido (15th - €40,100), and EPT10 London champ Robin Ylitalo (14th - €40,100) made their way to the payout desk. Ylitalo had high hopes coming into the day, but an ill-timed bluff saw most of his stack disappear, and he was eliminated a short time later.
After the elimination of Mateusz Moolhuizen (13th - €44,500), Carlo Citrone (12th - €44,500), Julien Duveau (11th - €49,700), and Bart Kuiper (10th - €49,700), Fedor "CrownUpGuy" Holz, who won the 2014 WCOOP Main Event for $1,820,700, bubbled the final table when his pocket aces were cracked by Montury's flopped set of fives. The 21-year-old, who just returned to the #1 spot in the world in the PocketFives Online Poker Rankings, was disappointed, but did reveal he enjoyed the live experience.
"I actually enjoy live poker more than online," Holz told PokerNews earlier in the day. "I like both quite a lot, but live gives me the opportunity to think about hands in a more in-depth way. Overall I found the transition from online quite easy."
Poland's Remi Wyrzykiewicz and start-of-the-day chip leader Duda fell before play concluded for the night, leaving six to return for the sixth and final day. Action will recommence at Noon local time on Saturday, but live updates won't begin until an hour later. That's because the final table will be broadcast with hole cards on a one-hour delay.
The PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be on hand to capture all the action, so be sure to check back then. In the meantime, check out this video on what it's like to become a millionaire courtesy of PokerStars: